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Mencius (mĕnˈshəs), Mandarin Meng-tzu, 371?–288? B.C., Chinese Confucian philosopher. The principal source for Mencius' life is his own writings. He was born in the ancient state of Ch'ao, in modern Shandong prov. He lost his father as a child and was reared by his mother, who, in Chinese folklore, is synonymous with maternal devotion. Appalled at the anarchic condition of society, he traveled through several petty states urging the rulers to practice the doctrines of Confucius. Central to the philosophy of Mencius was the belief that man is by nature good. His innate moral sense can be developed by cultivation or perverted by an unfavorable environment. The duty of the ruler is to ensure the prosperous livelihood of his subjects. He should particularly eschew warfare except for defense. If the ruler's conduct reduces his subjects to penury and self-seeking, he must be deposed. Many of the specific reforms in landholding and other economic relations that Mencius proposed are difficult to understand from the sole text of his works, The Book of Mencius, which is one of the Shih Shu [four books] (see Chinese literature). Not until the late 11th cent. A.D. was Mencius regarded with veneration. Since then his image has been placed in temples dedicated to Confucius, and his work is considered second only to that of Confucius. The complete text of Mencius was translated by James Legge (1861; 2d ed. 1895, repr. 1970), L. A. Lyall (1935), Lionel Giles (1942), and D. C. Lau (1970). Excerpts were translated by Arthur Waley in Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China (1939).


See A. F. Verwilghen, Mencius: The Man and His Ideas (1967); F. C. Wei, The Political Principles of Mencius (1977).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(also, Meng-tzu). Born circa 372 B.C.; died 289 B.C. Chinese philosopher; one of the most active followers of Confucius.

Mencius was born in the state of Tsou in the Lu kingdom (present-day Shantung Province). He studied with disciples of Confucius. Seeking to weaken the struggle between the broad strata of society and the hereditary aristocracy, Mencius, who supported the interests of the aristocracy, called for the restoration of the ching tien system of “well-fields” of equal size, which was based upon the idea of equal distribution of lands among the peasantry. He criticized the basic tenets of the fachia, or Legist, school.

Developing Confucius’ principle of the superiority of the nobleman (chiin tzu) over the commoner (hsiaojen), Mencius asserted the immutability of the division of people into the rulers and the ruled—a thesis which from that time on became one of the most important principles of Confucian theory. Mencius expounded his views in conversations with the rulers of kingdoms and with his disciples. He visited the kingdoms of Ch’i, T’eng, Sung, and Liang. In Ch’i, Mencius served as an adviser. He died in the Lu kingdom.

Mencius’ sayings and conversations were recorded by his disciples, including Kung-sun Ch’ou and Wan Chang. The main body of the work, called Mencius, dates from not later than the third century B.C.


“Meng-tzu.” In Chutsu chich’eng (Collection of the Works of Ancient Thinkers), vol. 1. Peking, 1957.
Popov, P. S. Kitaiskii filosof Men-tszy. St. Petersburg, 1904. (Translated from Chinese.)
“Men-tszy.” In Drevnekitaiskaia filosofüa, vol. 1. Translated by L. I. Duman. Moscow, 1972.
Legge, J. “The Works of Mencius.” In The Chinese Classics, vol. 2. Oxford, 1895.
Wilhelm, R. Mong Dsi (Mong Ko). Jena, 1916.
The Book of Mencius. London, 1942.


Burov, V. G. , and M. L. Titarenko. “Filosofiia drevnego Kitaia.” In Drevnekitaiskaia filosofiia, vol. 1. Moscow, 1972.
Bykov, F. S. Zarozhdenie obshchestvenno-politicheskoi ifilosofskoi mysli ν Kitae. Moscow, 1966.
Yüan Cho-ying. La Philosophie morale et politique de Mencius. Paris, 1927.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Chinese name Mengzi or Meng-tze. ?372--?289 bc, Chinese philosopher, who propounded the ethical system of Confucius
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